This morning at Staples, I pushed the “Done” button on the credit card machine before I even signed my name. I think the reason was that the “Done” button was at the top of the screen, above the signature box. We’re used to working from top to bottom on forms, so I naturally started at the top. A better design would place the “Done” button below the signature, so the sequence is more natural.
I’m something of an aficionado of bad design. I don’t mean “bad” in aesthetic terms. What intrigues me is how inattention to the way humans actually operate results in designs that make tasks more difficult, even if only mildly so, than they need to be.
For example, I once encountered a transit ticket machine (in the D.C. Metro, iirc) that required several steps in order to get a ticket, and those steps involved directions and buttons that began on the right side of the machine and worked their way left. That would be good design for an Arabic language ticket machine, but for an English language one it causes us to work against our ingrained tendency to work left to right.
One that’s long bugged me is the layout of the buttons on my clock radio. Look at the two buttons on the left, for setting the time. When we read time, the hour is on the left, the minutes on the right. But the buttons for setting the time are reversed, with minutes first and hours second. When I have to change the time, usually for re-setting the alarm, I frequently hit the wrong button first because I’m mentally envisioning an “hours-minutes” sequence. It doesn’t bother me enough to spend 15 bucks on a different alarm clock, but you can be sure that next time I buy one I’ll take a close look at the button layout.
How about you? What bad designs have caught your eye?